Enough is enough, Leonardo DiCaprio thought, he’s had several close-calls with taking home that long-coveted Oscar, but it just wasn’t good enough. So, he went full Oscar bait doing the whole “suffering in the wilderness on/off screen trudging his way through trials and tribulations to get him to his destination.” The destination being either home and one-step closer in avenging his losses if you’re taking about the movie or the Oscar at the end of the road that he so desperately wants. In the strictest sense of the word this is an Oscar bait film to get Leo his award, literally everything in the marketing and presentation of the film has that in the forefront. Someone like Tom Hardy who is at least just as good as DiCaprio in the film is unheard of in any type of awards talks and the film itself seems to have taken a backseat. I mean, sure, it’s nominated for a bunch of awards for the film itself, Inarritu, but it’s still very much a DiCaprio vehicle.
Going into the film I was a bit worried because I had heard from other reviews that it’s not some deep meditation on this character that DiCaprio plays and really not all that big of a study on the human condition. It doesn’t stick with DiCaprio’s character of Hugh Glass as he fights the elements, Indians and whatever else the landscape has to face him, we don’t just suffer through with him, we often flip back to Tom Hardy’s character of John Fitzgerald, who had killed Glass’ son spurning on the revenger from Glass, attempting to make it back to the Fort all the while attempting to cover his traps and formulate his game plan of making a break for freer pastures. We also flip back to the Fort where Glass and Fitzgerald’s fellow trappers have made it back and are slowly being drawn into the story. I thought this all was going to be a detriment to the film, all the flip-flopping to other areas and characters, withdrawing from the constrictive plight of Glass, but doing so as a more traditional narrative film works quite well and probably just as good as if they just solely focused on DiCaprio. Conversely, I could never get behind a similar in construct film in ‘The Martian’ because they would too freely flip between Matt Damon’s character stuck on Mars and the people on Earth trying to get him back where you felt no tension or real concern about his character being trapped on Mars. Focusing more on his plight would’ve greatly helped the film, whereas I actually think that direction in The Revenant might’ve put too much of an onus and be a little much with DiCaprio’s portrayal of Glass.
Don’t get me wrong, DiCaprio is very good in the role, definitely not as great as I anticipated him to be, but he does enough work to help disappear into the role and seem more Hugh Glass than he does Leonardo DiCaprio playing a character. As mentioned earlier Tom Hardy is fantastic in his part, but unfortunately will forever be overshadowed by DiCaprio’s work, but that’s what you’d expect when DiCaprio pulls out all the stops. The direction and photography is top notch as expected, I know some people think Alejandro González Iñárritu is overrated, but I think without his touch and dedication to get this film done with as much real life fidelity as possible it wouldn’t have come off as both being a low-key epic film, along with the more subtle beauty shots that juxtaposed with the harshness of the land. The stage was masterfully set by Iñárritu and sufficiently finished off by the effort of DiCaprio and company.